More cuts possible, Schaefer warns Actions to balance budget don't fix all, governor says.

October 24, 1991|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff

Gov. William Donald Schaefer is warning that government services and jobs that survived the most recent round of budget cuts could be returned to the chopping block if the state's money woes continue.

Calling more budget cuts before the end of the year "a possibility," Schaefer said yesterday's remedial action by the state Board of Public Works to balance Maryland's ailing budget does not resolve all the state's fiscal problems.

"We moved the pain around from one program to another and the pain is still there," Schaefer said.

Yesterday, the board approved a compromise budget-balancing plan worked out between the governor and the legislature that shifted substantial cuts in funding from one group of agencies to another.

The board's formal action concluded a controversial effort to reduce state spending by $450 million, the amount estimated by budget analysts that the state will not get in revenues as a result of the recession.

Last week, Schaefer signed a budget reduction bill that included, among other items, a $68 million cut in state aid to local governments.

The budget plan approved yesterday is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 1. It will leave more than 1,500 state workers jobless and reduce spending on social programs and in state agencies.

Earlier this month, the board approved sweeping budget cuts that would have eliminated 1,766 state jobs -- including State Police positions -- and would have gutted some welfare, drug treatment and medical assistance programs.

About $84 million of the cuts were rescinded and shifted to other agencies as part of the compromise package ironed out between the governor and the legislature.

Under the new plan, the jobs of 59 state troopers are saved and Med-Evac helicopters are to resume their regular service. Med-Evac units transport seriously injured or ill people to hospitals.

While yesterday's action was a formality, long-faced board members used the occasion to remark pessimistically about the state's wobbly financial situation.

Already, state officials have been forced to cut about $1 billion from the current $11.6 billion budget. Meanwhile, budget experts are projecting that revenues from sales and personal incomes taxes will continue to fall below estimates, prompting another round of cuts before the end of the calendar year.

"Does the picture change? Absolutely not," Schaefer said after the latest cuts were made official yesterday. "If we have another reduction, we're going to get it in the areas that are left. There is no new money. Just be aware. . . ."

Schaefer's gloom was shared by the two other members of the board.

"It's not practical to think that we can keep cutting [the budget] and still have the state provide services," said state Treasurer Lucille Maurer. "I think we'll need a variety of responses."

State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein fretted that most Marylanders still are unaware of the seriousness of the budget problems.

"So many of them think it's a fairy tale," he said.

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